All right, that’s a final! The Illini eased up a bit on the gas towards the end, but maintained a solid 20 point lead for 10 minutes or so as they were cruising to victory.
Weber continues to try out different combinations: Some posters on the Illinois Loyalty chat were curious as to why Griffey sat so much in the second half. Tyler gave us 15 excellent minutes in the first half, but only 7 in the second half. I think this is symbolic of a larger philosophy that Weber and the staff are employing throughout the early games. Illinois has a number of unknown quantities on this team. By getting them as much time as possible early (knowing he can get the starters back in there to extend a lead) Weber is both learning what the new and underused (Bertrand, Head) players’ capabilities are while offering them vaulable opportunities to learn on the job. This is a departure from seasons past-even in the early season games, Weber had to lean heavily on McCamey/Davis/Tisdale group since he had little else. Weber will be forced to use younger players this year; it is best that he learn who plays well together and what contributions each player can make.
Egwu’s learning curve: It seems that Nnanna Egwu has a fairly steep learning curve. The announcers were rightfully gushing over his newfound abiity to create space for guard penetration. On a couple of occasions, Nnanna managed to not only get a good seal on his defender, but create a driving lane by moving away from the basket. This is one of the ways a big, physical presence on the interior can make a difference for the Illini without possessing an array of offensive skills. Egwu’s scoring game may still have a way to go, but his defensive presence and coachability are making him a real asset in the early going for Illini basketball.
Freshmen will be freshmen: As impressive as Egwu was, Tracy Abrams and Mike Shaw had some struggles on the court tonight. Tracy, who is still hampered by his turf toe injury, played only a few minutes and got himself into a bit of foul trouble with two in the first half. Rather than leave him out there, Weber chose to give Maniscalco an Illini-career high 24 minutes tonight, a decision which was rewarded with 15 points, 3 assists and a pair of steals. Mike Shaw also had his tribulations this evening as well, turning the ball over 4 times and missing all seven of his shots from the field. He did add 7 boards, however. The freshman will have ups and downs, but Abrams, Egwu, and Shaw have all been pleasant surprises thus far in the season.
Topics: Brandon Paul, Bruce Weber, Crandall Head, D.J. Richardson, Illini Basketball, Illinois Basketball, Illinois Fighting Illini Basketball, Joe Bertrand, Meyers Leonard, Mike Shaw, Nnanna Egwu, Sam Maniscalco, Tracy Abrams, Tyler Griffey, U-of-I Basketball